UFO Busting: Alabama Chanin style cardigan

131006_cardigan3I am in love with this cardigan, it is absolutely perfect in all of its imperfections. It is also completely out of my comfort zone. Who would have thought that I was going to wear an embroidered cardigan and love it? Not me, that’s for sure. I am a no-nonsense girl, my wardrobe consists for more than 90% of solids and typically lacks frilly details. So, how did I end-up creating an all-over embroidered garment?

It all started when Craftsy launched their Hand Embellishing Knit Fabric course that is taught by Natalie Chanin from Alabama Chanin. Alabama Chanin sells completely hand-made embellished garments made from 100% organic cotton jersey. Their garments are very expensive, which is totally understandable once you realize how much work is put into creating each item. For those of us that cannot afford to spend several thousand dollars on a single piece of clothing they sell books and supplies that help you to create them yourself. I became fascinated by this process so I signed up for the Craftsy course and also bought the Alabama Stitch book.


Would the woman who made this pattern still recognize it?

I decided against using the coat pattern supplied with the Craftsy class (it’s huge and I don’t think I’d wear it) but instead made cardigan 17 from Knipmode June 2011, that I already made once before. I did make some adaptations though. The original pattern calls for some voile being sewn in at the hems and shoulder seams, I had already discarded this detail as too frilly in my previous version and left it out here as well. I added 1 inch to both sides at centre front tapering to nothing at the shoulder. I shortened the sleeve to ¾ length because I couldn’t fit a full sleeve out of my fabric, and I usually push up my sleeves anyway. I also rounded up some corners to make it easier to install the ribbing around the edges. For the closure I used a hook and eye instead of ties.

131006_cardigan1Alabama Chanin garments typically consist of two layers of cotton jersey. For embellished versions a stencil is used to paint shapes onto the fabric. This is then embroidered, (reverse) appliqued and/or beaded.

I used 2m white 100% organic cotton jersey and dyed it with procion MX 128 warm black that turned out more grey blue than black, but I love it anyway. The inside layer is a lighter shade than the outside layer because I used a more diluted dye bath for that piece of fabric. The stencilling was done with white paint and the bloomers stencil supplied with the Alabama Stitch book. For the backstitch embroidery around the painted shapes I decided to use all the different shades of green I had in my stash which is probably close to 30 different colours. I love the effect that this creates.  It also made the embroidery part more fun because I could make some design choices along the way. The ribbing was attached with the whipstitch.


I’m sure some of you are wondering how long it took me to complete this project. I keep a sewing logbook in which I write down what I do each day to help me keep track. I started this cardigan on March 16 of this year and worked on it during 46 days. On some days I only embroidered one shape, but I think it is safe to assume that on average I probably worked at least 2-3 hours a day, so in total it took at least 100-150 hours to complete it, but that might still be a conservative estimate. Anyway, I don’t really care how much time it took, all I know is that I ended up with one pretty amazing and unique garment that is for sure going to be a wardrobe staple!

131006_detailsI am definitely going to continue on this handsewing journey. It was a very relaxing process, I kept the project in our living room and worked on it while watching television or listening to music. It was also really nice that I could take this project with me to work on it elsewhere because it didn’t require a sewing machine. Talking about comfort zones, I now also want to try my hand at beading, yes beading.


I just had to add this picture because my boyfriend, who took the pictures, thought it was very funny, so this one is for him!

21 comments on “UFO Busting: Alabama Chanin style cardigan

  1. Amanda says:

    Wow! It is fabulous! Well done!

  2. maeveswiftly says:

    This turned out great! Gotta love craftsy.

  3. Your cardigan is so lovely, well worth all the effort.

  4. mandymunroe says:

    This is beautiful, you have such patience!

    • Emmely says:

      Thank you! I accepted at the start that it was going to take a long time to complete and I made sure not to set myself a deadline because I would never have made it!

  5. Wow, I am impressed ! You are quite the talented one too! This cardigan fits perfectly, the color and the pattern look great on you!

  6. Martine says:

    He Emily,

    Mooi geworden, je borduur-verf project. Hij past ook perfect! Leuk om het eindresultaat te zien.

  7. I found this via project sewn. I love it! It seems like a great season transition cardigan. Off to explore your other projects.

  8. alaskannancy says:

    I have just discovered Alabama Chanin. I’ve checked out our libraries 2 book and have just ordered the third book from amazon. Like you, I already know how to dye and sew. I am so eager to find time to make a garment! Your jacket pattern is awesome and I’m going to look for something similar. Thanks for all the details on how you implemented the techniques.

    • Emmely says:

      I only have the first book and it’s a great resource. I’m sure I’ll get the other books too at some point. Good luck on making your own Alabama Chanin garment!

  9. jo says:

    What a gorgeous jacket!! I have two of Chanin’s books and am thinking (obsessing!) about starting my first project soon! Did you cut your stencilled shapes out, or leave the painted sections in place? Looks awesome in any case!

  10. Dita de Winter says:

    Emmely, wat leuk om een nederlandse fan van Natalie Chanin tegen te komen.
    Voor mij is het een heel grote hobby geworden en het is heerlijk om zo ontspannen mooie dingen te maken die ook nog fijn dragen.
    Ben benieuwd waar je verder mee bezig gaat.

  11. Dita de Winter says:

    Het vestje is erg leuk geworden en je hebt er mooie eigen accenten aan toegevoegd 😃

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